Mindful Parenting

As parents, we all have ideas about what we want our children to be like and can easily get caught up these thoughts which can cause us to miss out on who are children are now as well as what is going on with them in the present.  As you can imagine, this type of mindset and parenting can have negative consequences on the parent-child relationship therefore we can strive to be more mindful in our interactions and parenting.  So what does mindful parenting mean? Mindful parenting is a concept developed by mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn and his wife Myla, who are the authors of Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting.  According to the Kabat-Zinns, practicing mindful parenting is the ability to maintain an open mind and heart with a nonjudgmental attitude while being present in the moment.  This type of parenting requires us to let go of what we want our children to be and act like and instead focus on what is going on in the here-and-now with ourselves and our children.  In other words, mindful parenting is seeing and accepting our children for who they are right now without comparing them to who and what we want them to be.

What are the benefits of mindful parenting?  Because this type of interacting requires parents to be attuned, accepted, and empathic to their children, it can positively influence the emotional and relational development in their children.  Parents who practice mindfulness with their children tend to be more emotionally balanced and present which has been shown to promote functional and grounded children into adulthood.  This means that practicing consistent mindful parenting can result in children being able to manage emotionally charged situations as they grow.  

How can we practice mindful parenting? Here are some tips you can begin to practice:

1. Increase awareness of your mind (thoughts and self-talk) and body (physical sensations)
2. React less and respond more. Reacting tends to involve automatic, mindless behaviors whereas responding involves creating space and awareness to acknowledge that there are multiple choices for how we can manage any situation.  
3. Allow your children to have some degree of physical and emotional space from you.
4. Simplify your days by not over-scheduling or being too focused on what you would like to have happen.
5. Maintain a life outside of being a parent.  

Just like mindfulness, mindful parenting takes years of practice but can be extremely rewarding for parents and children individually and in relationship to one another.

~ Cory Stege, M.S., LMFT